Morningside Renovation

Our Journey Through The Renovation Process Of Our Future "Forever Home" In Morningside (Atlanta,GA)


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Advice on Hiring a Contractor

“Many times what we perceive as an error or failure is actually a gift. And eventually we find that lessons learned from that discouraging experience prove to be of great worth” – Richelle E. Goodrich

Ok, 1 project, 2 years and 2 different general contractors. We obviously didn’t get it right the first time and the second attempt was a failure as well, so while I can’t give you a fool-proof method or checklist on how to go about finding and hiring a great, ethical, morally fit and competent general contractor; I can share with you what worked and what didn’t. Basically lessons from the University of Life.

Sure, we read and followed all (most) of the great and insightful advice given on numerous websites (most probably written by someone who has never been through this process) but we still got scammed. Two professional and business savvy people victimized by contractors who seemed to be not only one step ahead of most of the advice but most importantly the system, the system specifically put in place to protect homeowners.

I’ve said it before; the crooked ones are smart and good at their game. Most homeowners hire a contractor for a major project only once or twice in their lifetime, however these guys are juggling numerous jobs at any one time – who do you think knows the game better? And if you think you can depend upon your local governmental authority to monitor or punish these donkeys think again. Most of these agencies don’t have the time, finances, capacity or desire to do so and the laws; well if they’re anything like the ones in Georgia then you’ll find they’re structured to mostly protect the contractor, not the homeowner. (Any guess on who has a bigger lobbying group?)

So here it is; suggestions on what to do, or not to do, in no particular order:

 

Have an Attorney Review the Contract.   It’s a no-brainer that you should always have a written contract between the two parties. It doesn’t matter the size or scope of the project there should always be a contract specifying at least the commencement date, estimated completion time, total cost of the project, payment method and plan, insurance coverage, detailed specifications of the project as well as what constitutes a default (BOTH parties) and the possible remedies. Of course there needs to be additional language covering delays, change orders and termination language for both parties as well as various other sections addressing permits, inspections, utilities, etc…however what most don’t take into account or stop to realize is that the contract is usually supplied by the contractor. That’s right; it’s the contractor’s contract, written for the benefit and protection of the contractor. See why you should have an experienced attorney review it? And by experienced I mean someone who deals in construction law. Believe me, the few hundred dollars spent having the agreement modified to offer you the same mutual protection is well worth the alternative. Last, despite what you might be told, there is no standard contract and they all can be modified. If your contractor tells you he won’t accept changes or that it can’t be done then you need to find someone else.

Insurance.    Require that the contractor provides you with all of the proper insurance coverage for your project. Make them supply you with proof and make a copy of it. Call their insurance carrier and verify the amount of coverage & type. Also keep track of the expiration date of the policy to make sure that it covers you throughout the construction period. Last, have your insurance carrier review the insurance language in the contract as well as the coverage carried by the contractor.

You Control the Money.   Meaning, if you’ve obtained a construction loan to finance your project, make sure that only you have access to receive and/or order a distribution. Believe it or not but giving the contractor the authority to withdrawal funds is a somewhat common practice or request – but you’re only asking for trouble if you agree to it. Thankfully we didn’t, and while both of the contractors weren’t entirely please with our resistance they eventually got over it. If your contractor requires such – RUN!!

Lien Waivers.   Make sure that you receive a lien waiver from the contractor each and every time you provide them with a payment. A lien waiver stating that they indemnify you and your property and that their business (& them personally if able to achieve) will take full responsibility if ever a claim of non-payment appears. Also, make sure that your attorney reviews this agreement prior to the final execution of the Construction Contract/Agreement. Better yet, try to obtain the ability to pay any subs directly and require that they indemnify you via a Lien Waiver; you can still pay your contractor his percentage fee separately.

Only Pay for Completion. Pretty self-explanatory but only pay for completed work. When things started to get off-track with our second contractor we arbitrarily decided to only pay for work which was 100% complete and only on rare occasions would be pay for work which wasn’t, then paying a percentage which was less than the percentage of what was actually finished. Example, you receive an invoice for the labor of installing sheet rock throughout the house(100%) however only 90% of it has actually been hung, you would only pay 50% of the invoice, with the balance being paid once that particular job is 100% complete. I sure wish we had implemented this from the beginning, as once we did a number of unfinished items were quickly completed.

Do Not Pay In Advance for Materials.   Looking back the only way that I would agree to altering this stance would be for specialty ordered cabinets or something similar with a higher dollar value. If your contractor is unable to afford to front the initial expense then his bank account is probably a little too lean.   We got stuck on this one – our second donkey told us that it was required by the vendor for us to pay for half of the cost of our exterior doors upfront and the balance would be due on arrival. Stupidly we did, and once we released him and went to pick up the doors from the vendor we were quickly told that they never received our initial “down payment” and they’ve never even had such a policy. Trust is a two-way street.

View Completed Projects, but More Importantly View Current Job Sites.   Fairly self-explanatory but when viewing current jobs don’t just stop by during arranged times; go by unannounced at odd times so you can see the quality of the work as well as the condition of the job site.

Don’t Just Check References.   Of course ask for and actually call the references supplied to you but know that those are most likely cherry-picked, as I doubt anyone would provide less than stellar references. Go one step further, most municipalities allow you to view permit information online where you can search by address, owner’s name, contractor’s name, etc… Run a quick check for permits pulled by your contractor over the last few years and see if there are any names/jobs which weren’t given as references by the contractor and then reach out to them. At the same time some municipalities even go so far as to list online which inspections passed and which ones failed for each job – great info to have. Sure wish we had known about this in the beginning, our first contractor had a less than stellar inspection history.

Get a Detailed Bid.   It may seem like overkill and it’s a lot of work on the contractor, and potentially for you, but the more due diligence done on the front-end the less chance for surprises down the road.

Don’t Fall in Love, Trust that Little Voice.    It’s so easy to get swayed by the fast talk, fancy promises and flashy pictures and websites. Most contractors aren’t there to bring to life your dreams; they’re there to win the job, and some at any means necessary. Most of these guys could have a successful career as a politician so only trust less than half of what’s coming out of their mouth. Remember, they just want the job. If the promises or prices seem a little too good and aren’t in-line with those you’ve received then move on to the next guy. Nobody can pull a rabbit out of a hat without fooling you, don’t be that fool.

Third Party.   While some general contractors now offer in-house architectural services I would strongly advise that you hire an outside source. Why? Some in-house architects are great but you have to remember who they ultimately work for on a daily basis, even after your job is complete. Ask those in your neighborhood who they would recommend and then interview each of them until you find one that fits your project. I would also recommend finding one that is experienced with project management and who will be actively overseeing its progress. If you’re going to have a considerable amount of structural work performed then I would also highly recommend that you hire a structural engineer to overlook the architect’s plans as well as the work being performed. Most architects have a few which they work with regularly which is fine, just make sure that your contract allows for you to have the ability to hire these advocates and then follow through with doing so. Nobody likes having someone look over their shoulder, especially when they “know” how to do their job. But despite what you might be told, the extra money spent on hiring a third-party is well worth the investment and can not only save you money but can also save your project. While we used our contractor’s architect, big mistake, we did hire a structural engineer on our behalf and it was beyond worth it and ultimately ended up salvaging our dream/home.

Careful with Fixed Priced Contracts.   So the appeal of a fixed priced contract to homeowners, or at least to those which I’ve spoken with, is that you know the price will never be over the agreed to construction cost. Won’t be under and it won’t be over. The general mindset or fear of most is the possibility of the cost getting out of hand and potentially becoming unaffordable, the Fixed Priced concept is supposed to eliminate these fears; with the homeowner thinking that any cost over the contractually agreed to price will be the responsibility of the contractor. Think again, these guys aren’t idiots. Somewhere in the contractor there will be very liberal language discussing unforeseen conditions as well as change orders. One guess who pays for any extra expenses associated with these unforeseen conditions and change orders? Yep, you. And they’re quick to list something they should’ve taken into account on the front-end and label it as an unforeseen condition, sort of an extra layer of protection for them.

Keep Everything Tidy.   Make sure that there’s language in the contract requiring the contractor to maintain a clean and orderly work site with all trash and debris being swept up and deposit in a dumpster at the end of the day.

Take Pictures.   I’ve mentioned this before but take pictures throughout the process. Besides being able to look back on the progress being made these are also provide a great piece of evidence if ever needed in the future.

Hold Some Back.   Make sure that the payment plan is structured where you’re not required to pay the last 15-20% until after the job is 100% finished, punch-list items are completed and all Lien Waivers have been executed. You’ll definitely experience some resistance over this one but try to hold back the same percentage as what your GC is charging for his fee.

Sober Up.   It’s so easy to become intoxicated over the initial excitement, but try to step back and view this as a business decision. Take all emotions out of it and if you feel comfortable doing so, maybe use a trusted friend as a sounding board and then ask for their advice. Did we do this? Nope, we stayed “drunk” for the first several months and then finally sobered up before it was almost too late.

“Smart people learn from their mistakes. But the real sharp ones learn from mistakes of others.” – Brandon Mull

 

This is by no means a comprehensive list but just a few of the items which immediately come to mind.  Please feel free to add to it or share some of your past experiences.

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With a Little Help From Phillip Phillips

I’m not a regular follower of American Idol however the winner from a few seasons back, Phillip Phillips, first introduced and sang his signature song “Home” which eventually achieved a # 1 ranking on many charts and as a result received a considerable amount of airtime (some would scream, “over-played”) on radio, TV & film –  and also in my head.  The lyrics of “Home” are fairly vague which let’s one derive their own meaning from it and has probably led to some of its popularity; however during the last several months of our renovation project the main line which states, “I’m going to make this place your home” is probably where my personal connection to this song actually began.  Over time as I eventually paid attention to the rest of the lyrics I found them also somewhat relatable to our then current renovation journey.  So it became my personal and unofficial theme song during the last half of our crazy, stressful, frustrating, disheartening and at times disappointing journey.

While “Home” eventually found its way to my iPod I was never guilty of blaring it through my speakers or reaching for it when needing a little inspiration.  Nothing like that at all, this was more intimate and personally developed over time.  As mentioned earlier, several months back you almost couldn’t turn on your radio without hearing it.  But it seemed as if every time I got in my car after experiencing or hearing about another disappointing setback (and they were numerous) or when we would question the logic behind continuing to move forward when one of us would want to throw in the towel, this song would be playing on the radio and it seemed to drown everything else out and refocus my original purpose of making sure J received her “forever home”.  Now looking back it makes sense why over the last several months of our project I felt as if my brain had this song on some vicious repeat cycle.

“Don’t pay no mind to the demons they fill you with fear”, “the trouble it might drag you down”

Unfortunately those verses became a reality as we eventually realized that who we once thought was our Superman(our new GC) was far from it. Now there were similarities, both of them heroically rush in to rescue someone in a dire situation, however that’s where it all pretty much ends.

Unexplainable & lengthy delays, excessive expenses and mistruths  became too frequent and numerous as weeks and eventually months passed with little to no progress being made. Eventually we realized that we weren’t alone and the reasons behind some of those delays were ultimately uncovered.

Our agreed to payment process was fairly standard, the GC, or his subs, performed the work; weekly an invoice or draw was created & presented to us and we would either write a check for the full amount (if all was completed) or for an amount equal to the percentage of what was truly completed for that specific task.  He would then reimburse his subs and/or vendors, deduct his agreed to fee and present us with a Lien Waiver.  Pretty simple process and one which would keep everyone paid on a timely basis and hopefully minimize delays which was extremely important since we were already so far behind our original construction completion date and still carrying the financial burden of two houses.  Except there was one little issue, although we were a little late realizing what was truly happening it was eventually brought to our attention by a few of the subs that over the last several weeks our new GC had started making it a habit of either short-paying them & the vendors or just not paying them at all.

So there’s no mistake, I realize that there are some very good contractors with extremely high ethics but I’m also confident that there are numerous others which are either incompetent or as greedy and crooked as the two we’ve experienced.  The problem is that the bad ones are just so damn good at strategizing how they can take advantage of a situation and milk the homeowner for every possible dollar while getting away with it.  And to make it even worse they know how to work around or just barely within the laws which were originally designed to “protect” the homeowner and prevent this from happening.

Now if you’ve read any of my earlier post it’s probably fairly obvious that 1) I’m not very bright and should have bailed on this whole project numerous times before, 2) a personal trait which I like to think of as persistence is probably better defined as bull-headed and 3) I wanted to give J her “forever home” and was determined not to let anything stand in the way of it.

While our home is now complete it was a long, difficult and extremely stressful road.  Threats, intimidation & frequent mistruths all became a common place with our GC.   Threats of further delays, additional costs if we decided to terminate the relationship and the threat of placing liens on the house were all tossed around whenever we began to ask questions or push back against their answers.   Any of these would have been enough for most people to terminate a relationship but we just felt at the time that despite all of this they were our best hope for completing our dream as we continued to try to convince ourselves that this was possibly just part of the home renovation business – the norm.

To give credit where it is due I have to admit that they were good in some areas; their structural work was good and their subs were great; however  they were even better at creating a situation where we felt as if we were being held hostage financially and ultimately for completion.

But we weren’t, we had an angel – plus the two of us can be a pretty formidable team when we share the same goal.  After cutting our loses and painfully walking away from our initial deposit we set out determined to GC our own project, our minds determined to finish the job.  Couldn’t be much to complete, all we had left to do was; finish the floors, install the rest of the trim, hang all of the doors (interior & exterior), painting (interior & exterior), have all of the cabinets & countertops installed,  completion  & installation of all of the electrical and plumbing fixtures, construction of the built-ins as well as the hearth and mantle for the great room, rebuilding and finishing of the outdoor room & deck as well as the carport area, grading & pouring of the driveway, back-filling the area around the basement expansion, completion of the front porch, completing the exterior brick work, installation of the glass walls & doors for the shower in the master bath, replacement of the water & sewer lines as well as the coordination of all of the required inspections and approvals.  Plus a few extra items on the exterior which included,  grading & leveling of the backyard, laying sod, installing a French drain along 2 sides of the house, plus adding a privacy fence to enclose the backyard as well as a driveway gate.  We knew it would be a challenge but we had no idea what it all entailed and I can guarantee you that we would have gone a different route if we even had a hint that with almost every one of the above listed items we would experience at least some issue.

One of the deciding factors to break free though was after we experienced a situation with our cabinets during installation.  The cabinets were already 7 ½ weeks behind scheduled delivery but once they arrived we noticed the doors and drawers weren’t what we ordered.  Calls were made to our GC as well as the cabinet-maker to find out the reason for the mix up.  GC’s response – he did his best to try to convince us that the doors & drawers delivered were what we ordered and to replace them it would cost us even more money.  One problem, we had in our possession a sample of the doors we originally ordered with our GC’s handwriting on the back confirming that this sample was the style of doors which we would receive.  Despite this fact our GC didn’t give up trying to convince us otherwise; he would change his story, yell, tried to put J and me against one another, scream louder and shifted the blame to everybody else.  Enough!!   A few days later he was released and while we had to hire another cabinet-maker to give us the style of doors we originally ordered, we eventually achieved the look of what was originally envisioned for our kitchen.

Finding, qualifying and selecting the needed subs & vendors, the coordination and logistics of lining everyone up, plus the selection of finishes and decisions which had yet to be made or had to be made once again was more time-consuming and frustrating than what we anticipated.  But at times it was just the simple decisions such as which comes first, staining & finishing the hardwood floor or painting the interior walls, that tested our patience and will.

The stress, frustration, disappointment and sacrifices which we experienced on so many levels is beyond anything I ever want to experience again, but somehow we did it.  Sure a never-ending punch-list still exists and I now know way more than I originally ever wanted to know about the whole building process  but somewhere along the way I also gained an appreciation and somewhat of a love and/or passion for it all.

I guess it all goes back to what’s  listed above under the first part of #1, all that we went through should’ve been enough to turn anyone off, but as each obstacle was somehow overcome a crazy affection started to grow.  Of course the coordination involved with the whole moving process and the purchasing of needed furnishings and window treatments did nothing for this admiration, nor did the fact that we were basically kicked out of the house we were renting during construction because the landlord found a higher paying tenant which resulted in us having to spend several nights in a hotel until our house was “livable”, but somehow this “love or desire” developed and has left me thinking.

While I don’t believe that all of the negative experiences that we encounter during our lifetime are predetermined, I do believe that it is our responsibility to use those experiences to somehow help others going through something similar.  So that’s my struggle, how best can I help others in similar situations or maybe it’s what can I do to educate and prevent this from happening to someone else?  Not sure about the answer yet, maybe it’s this blog (although I doubt it) or maybe it’s just to assist a friend when they’re faced with a similar situation…just not sure but it’s a thought that is constantly in my mind.

So that’s my “brief” summary and explanation as to where I’ve been over the last several months.  It took 18 long months to finally complete it and along the way we tried our best to find or create fun and memorable moments for us and the boys which at times seemed impossible but…We Made It!!

We met some wonderful subs during this whole ordeal but we honestly couldn’t have done it without our Angel(who I’ll talk about in more detail in a future post). I’m not sure what the future will hold but I do know that despite all that we’ve experienced I feel extremely grateful & appreciative and  hope that one day I can somehow return the favor and find a way to assist, or prevent, someone else from going through something similar.


Able to Save Some Money on Roofing

If you’re somewhat familiar with our story and if you read any of my posts over the last few months you know that if we’re to complete our house we’re going to have to get creative and find ways to reduce some of the construction expenses.  When we were re-interviewing Contractors for our second go at this project a lot of them talked about how they were good at value engineering projects and how they would “probably” be able to find ways throughout the course of construction to lower some of our costs while not sacrificing our finished goal or the quality of it.  I’m sure some of them would’ve been able to do so but one of the reasons why we chose our current GC is because he actually provided us with true examples on the front-end of how he would be able to do it and deliver to us our dream.  From the bids we received he wasn’t the lowest in price nor was he able to get his bid as low as we were hoping but he assured us that he would continue to look for avenues where we could save money.

I was skeptical at first for a few reasons; the contract with our current GC is a true Cost Plus contract. Meaning, we pay our contractor for the actual cost of the material and labor plus a predetermined percentage of those costs which basically is his profit. My feeling was that because of this arrangement he had very little incentive to reduce any of the expenses because that would in turn lower his profit.  My second concern was just the simple fact that he was walking into a project that had challenges.  The house was built in 1927, so who knows what issues he might find when he starts getting into the original structure.  Plus, directly because of the “improvements” by our former GC our house now had structural issues.  AND we’d been told by all of the contractors we interviewed (I believe 11 total) as well as our structural engineer that if we didn’t want to compromise the quality of our home or somewhat drastically change our overall plan of the house, then directly because of these past “improvements” there would need to be adjustments made to our framing and roofing plan which would significantly increase the overall costs.

So my concerns seemed realistic, not only why would he look for options to lower the costs which would reduce his profit but how would he even be able to do so?  As stated above, we knew that going forward there would be extra costs associated with the construction, framing, roofing, etc…and we made certain that the quality of our current GC’s work was above par and that he wasn’t one to cut-corners – quality GC, sterling reputation, past clients give him nothing but praise – still just doesn’t seem possible.

Well our house is far from complete and fortunately  our GC has been true to his word.  At the onset of our project he took it upon himself to have our roofing plan redrawn.  Our original roofing plan had more peaks and valleys than the Himalayas.  The amount of lumber required was enough for a house twice the square footage.  By redrawing our roofing plan, while making sure that it didn’t change the street appearance of our house, or that seen by the neighbors, he was able to simplify it thus reducing the cost of lumber, shingles, labor, etc… At the same time he was able to find us a comparable shingle as to what had originally been spec’d which also helped to reduced some of the costs.  We still have a lot more ground to makeup but overall this attributed to a 23.6% REDUCTION in what was budgeted for roofing.  Of course I wish that would become a trend and we could reduce all of the expenses by 24% however I’m just grateful that he not only took the time to explore various options but even more so that he actually did it and lived up to his word.  Amazing guy, so thankful we found him.

A few pictures below of the shingles. Try to ignore the exterior of the house, the trim will be added shortly, as well as replacement of all of the windows and they’re waiting until the interior improvements are complete before they paint the bricks.

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The shingles are Timberline HD which are manufactured by GAF and the color is Barkwood

Barkwood 1

Barkwood 3

One piece of advice, I would strongly recommend that before the shingles are installed that you inspect a few of them just to make sure they’re the same color as to what you’re expecting.  While we confirmed that what was written on each of the packages was the same as what was ordered, we personally neglected to actually view the shingles and when we saw them on the roof we were somewhat disappointed as they seemed a little lighter in color than what we saw on the shingle board, as well as what we viewed online.  (GAF also recommends the above on their website)  They all came from the same batch however they’re definitely lighter, my hope is that once the trim is added and the brick is painted that less of the redness in the shingles will be highlighted and the brown will become more dominant.

Going one-step further, it would be even better if one was to use the same approach in selecting a shingle color as what is recommended when painting an interior wall.  If possible take a few shingles of various colors and have them placed on your actual roof so you can get a better idea as to what you’re getting and how the sun might alter the look/color.  Sample boards aren’t always accurate and I’ve been told that not everything you read or see on the internet is completely accurate as well.


Bathtubs have Arrived

Just thought that I would give a quick update on what progress has happened at our house during the last several weeks.  As you can imagine the holidays basically brought everything to a halt and if it wasn’t the holidays it’s been the rain.  However the rough plumbing was recently completed and just last week our GC finished installing the tubs.

We were originally going with a standard tub in all of the bathrooms, except the master, however our GC, amazing guy, was able to secure these awesome Kohler Devonshire tubs which have a 20″ depth and gave them to us for the same price as the standard ones. This guy is incredible.

 

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The hole(missing concrete) in the above picture was where our former GC originally put the plumbing…in a bedroom…bright guy huh?

 

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And for the Master Bath (below) we decided not to go with one that was jetted, so we chose a 41 1/2″ x 70″ Bathcraft tub manufactured by Craftsmen, model A97040-00.

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It’s funny, it will be a while before the house is ready and we’re able to actually utilize the tubs but it’s still pretty exciting having them installed.  Plus, it’s the first time I’ve seen the boys excited about taking a bath – we’ll see how long that lasts. 

The holidays are behind us and even though we have rain forecasted throughout the end of this week I’m hoping for good weather in the near future…we still have a long way to go.


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The Value of Capturing the Moment

It probably goes without saying but I never knew the true value of it until our ordeal.  Take pictures if you’re in the process of or about to begin a renovation/building/remodeling project – lots of them. Pictures can be extremely helpful if there is ever a dispute about the quality of work that was performed. I imagine most people generally take a few “before and after” pictures as well as when their project reaches certain milestones.  However I would strongly recommend taking pictures more frequently, possibly everyday if there is a lot of work being done – and make sure that you take them covering all aspects and phases of the project.

These pictures can potentially save you thousands of dollars in the future by showing proof of inferior workmanship. Unlike our first experience, and quite fortunately, the vast majority of General Contractors are admirable, trustworthy and competent professionals, but they’re humans.  Everyone makes mistakes and some of these mistakes could end up costing YOU a tremendous amount of money in the future, especially if it’s critical to the structural integrity of your home. Also, it would be great if we could all depend upon our local municipality’s building inspector to catch these mistakes but that doesn’t always happen and in most areas they’re indemnified and can’t be held financially liable. All of the more reason to do everything you can to protect yourself.

Of course you want to be mindful of those working on your project and not get in their way.  And you don’t want to be viewed as a homeowner that is just trying to find a mistake and looking to build a case – sure fire way to destroy a contractor/homeowner relationship. At the beginning of your project start with an open and trusting mind while giving the professionals you hired the benefit of the doubt since they do this a lot more frequently than most of us – we hope. These pictures should just be viewed as insurance, same as we have for our cars and house.

Now, if you do find a mistake make sure you take detailed pictures of it along with the surrounding area.  Keep in mind that if these pictures are ever presented to a third-party in order to make a judgment you want there to be undeniable proof of your claim– remember that the burden of proof is always on the homeowner.

From the beginning of our project I took a lot of pictures out of pure excitement, not even thinking that I might need them one day. Every day I would stop by the house and take pictures of the progress.  A few of them I’ve posted on this site and Flickr however that is a small percentage of all of the pictures which I’ve taken. When I started finding mistakes I made sure to take a lot of pictures from all angles and views.  For instance, after the initial framing was completed and we discovered that the ceiling height in the basement was going to be at least 6” shorter than what was on the plans I made sure to document this by taking pictures and videos showing the error and I even used a tape measure which gave more accurate proof of our claim.

Keep in mind that any litigation will be an uphill battle for a homeowner. Unfortunately when going before an arbitrator or a judge homeowners are often at a disadvantage and at times prematurely viewed in a negative light before a hearing even begins.  The contractor has more knowledge about construction(most of the time), knows the jargon and depending if your contract includes arbitration language with an arbitrator already identified, they could possibly already have a relationship established with those determining the outcome.  While not a guarantee of victory, pictures can certainly help to even the playing field and take away some of your contractor’s argument.  They say pictures are worth a thousand words and in these instances it couldn’t be truer.

Thankfully most people won’t have a similar situation as we experienced however these pictures can still come in handy years from now by serving as an x-ray of what’s behind all of the sheet rock and finishes.  This alone could save you hundreds of dollars.  One too many times a contractor has probably said to a homeowner “we have no idea what’s behind those walls until we open it up”, your pictures will eliminate some of the guess/exploratory work and expense. 

There it is and pretty simple, take pictures and lots of them – before, during and after your project. If you have a video camera it’s not a bad idea to utilize it as well.  Download the pictures and/or video to a disk or external hard drive and keep them someplace safe.  Hopefully you’ll never need them but if you do they can prove to be invaluable.


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Velux Sun Tunnels, Are They Worth the Added Expense?

The Velux Sun Tunnel

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Originally I was planning on having these installed in the Master Bath, our walk-in closets, Kitchen, Boys’ Bathroom, and Laundry Room but since can lighting is less expensive and we’re cutting costs this is one of my “wants” that had to be eliminated.  Unfortunately I can’t seem to let it go, meaning that I’m trying to find a way to justify the added expense.  Of course I know the argument that “they’ll pay for themselves overtime with reduced electrical use however that just isn’t enough. So basically I’m asking you, “are you familiar with them, have you used them and are they worth the added expense?  I’m also concerned about the potential of them leaking.  They seem to be an amazing product, adding a lot of natural light and at this point I’m totally sold on them, I just need either more information, a cheaper alternative or to know that they’re not worth the it. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find very many contractors around the Atlanta area that are familiar with them. Let me know your thoughts if you have any experience or history with them.

So we’re moving along with framing, completed the majority of the interior frame-work, closets, baths, fireplace, stairs, etc…as well as the sheathing on the roof.  It is beyond exciting to see it actually all starting to come together.

Fireplace in the Great Room

Fireplace in the Great Room

Stairs - landing in the new basement area

Stairs – landing in the new basement area

View from Great Room into the Kitchen Area
View from Great Room into the Kitchen Area
Great Room

Great Room

       

Back of the house
Back of the house


Maybe a Virus Gave Me Some Clarity

Not Really – I’m a little behind on posts being that my computer had a nasty virus that basically destroyed my hard drive, but I’m back.  During the “down time” I realized how time-consuming it can be to actively blog.  Of course I entertained the thought of abandoning it altogether, but that time away was actually good.  It allowed me the ability to reflect on why I’m even blogging.   As you know a few posts back after reading an article on blogging I wrote about my concern with this site/blog not having a true purpose.  This site was originally started as a way to keep our friends and family updated on our renovation/remodeling/expansion project – basically an online journal with updates and pictures.  I thought this site would be active for 5 maybe 7 months at most.  Life(shit) happens and nothing against professional bloggers but I never expected that 12 months later I would still be typing away.

This “journey” has taken us from our initial excitement – to watch our progress, we’re so excited – to crap I can’t believe this is happening, what do we do – to Ok, we’re committed to this, we have to somehow find a way to pull this off. 

Shit happens, we had an incompetent as well as less than honest GC and to now accomplish our original goal (or as close as possible) we’re going to have to do it with an even tighter budget. Unfortunately I don’t have the experience to “Super Man” the job and singlehandedly save us.  We’ll have to rely on our new GC to value engineer areas, hopefully I can assist by doing a little DIY work where it’s appropriate, but mostly  it will depend upon us making wise economical decisions and choices.

So maybe I’ve found (uncovered) the underlying purpose of this site.  From our past misfortunes and during our forward journey my hope is that we’ll be able to share a few areas where we’ve been able to make up ground – create savings.  It won’t be easy and there’s quite a gap to bridge but someone once told me to never underestimate determination.

Last, I would love to be able to provide a proven method on how to assure that you won’t get screwed or taken advantage of by an unscrupulous contractor, or at least minimize the risk.  However I’ve come to realize that a guaranteed method just doesn’t exist.  We read and followed all of the various articles, tips and advice but it still happened. So what do you do if you find yourself in our position? Is it worth pursuing?  I’ll try to journal that as well.

So there it is – any bets on if I stick to it?